Cavaliers Still Blessed With Plenty of Options for the Future

Now that the dust has settled from the whirlwind draft night, in which fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers had emotions that were flying all over the place, we can start to consider what the 2011-12 roster might look like and what the Cavaliers’ free agency options are.

When the Cavaliers selected Justin Harper in the 2nd round of the draft, there was a lot of confusion as to why the Cavaliers drafted another PF. When the Cavs subsequently traded him to Orlando for two future 2nd round draft picks, the confusion reached a fever pitch. The anger over a 2nd round pick in the NBA draft was a little bit much, but the confusion was certainly understandable.

Finding quality players in the 2nd round is a fine art form, but the Cavaliers have had some success in the past with players like Daniel Gibson and Carlos Boozer. So while I may not have understood the anger, I did understand why people were confused. Heck, I was confused. I wouldn’t have traded the 32nd pick. I would have taken a shot on someone like Tyler Honeycutt. Actually, not someone like Honeycutt….I would have drafted Honeycutt. On a rebuilding team that sorely needs all the talent infusion it can get, why not select someone there that they could possibly use?

It was a questionable move for sure, but ultimately one that will likely have little bearing overall on future of the franchise. For his part, Cavs general manager Chris Grant stated that the team simply reached a point where they didn’t feel confident that any player they drafted would be better than a player they could get in free agency. It’s unclear, though, just how active the Cavaliers will be able to be in the free agent market.

A quick look at the Cavaliers currently under contract for the 2011-12 season, and their 2011-12 salaries (courtesy of shows that they are already over the max roster:

  1. Baron Davis: $13,900,000
  2. Antawn Jamison: $15,076,715
  3. Anderson Varejao: $7,950,000
  4. Daniel Gibson: $4,403,834
  5. Ramon Sessions: $4,257,834
  6. Ryan Hollins: $2,483,333
  7. JJ Hickson: $2,354,537
  8. Christian Eyenga: $1,097,520
  9. Joey Graham: $1,106,941
  10. Samardo Samuels: $788,872
  11. Alonzo Gee: $884,293
  12. Semih Erden: $788,872
  13. Luke Harangody: $788,872
  14. Manny Harris: $788,872
  15. Kyrie Irving: TBD
  16. Tristan Thompson: TBD

As Scott reported last Friday, Ryan Hollins has indeed picked up his option for this season. That leaves Joey Graham, Samardo Samuels, Alonzo Gee, and Manny Harris as the players with unguaranteed contracts who can be cut. To get to the max of 15, the most likely player to be cut is Joey Graham.

In order for the Cavaliers to have used their 2nd round pick, they would have had to either cut one more player from that list, or else trade someone (perhaps Ramon Sessions) for draft picks only. So basically, what the Cavaliers said was that they didn’t like anyone at pick #32 more than Samuels, Gee, or Harris. We can certainly debate that, as it’s hard to believe you can’t find anyone at #32, even in a weak draft, better than 3 undrafted free agents, but that’s essentially what the Cavaliers felt was the case.

It would be easier to speak with more certainty if there wasn’t the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement changes looming over everything, but if the Cavaliers are going to actually try to be players in the free agent market, they are going to have to free up some more roster spots.

I believe the team would like to hang on to Samardo Samuels and Alonzo Gee. I think each player showed moments of promise last season. I think they could both develop into deep bench players for the Cavaliers. Manny Harris did play in 54 games and even started 15 games, but I would assume Manny would be next on the chopping block should the Cavaliers need to make room.

The other option, of course, will be to make some trades to open some spots. No matter what the CBA looks like, expiring contracts will always have value, and the Cavaliers will have a whopper on their hands this season in that Antawn Jamison $15 million salary. However, expiring deals are always easier to trade at the deadline, so expect Jamison to at least be around for half the year.

There has been talk of Baron Davis being a trade option, but I don’t buy it. For all the scoffing national pundits have made at the thought of Davis being a mentor for Kyrie Irving, the fact of the matter is that Baron Davis’s attitude in Cleveland has been nothing short of awesome. He instantly fit right in with the attitude and mentality of the players on the roster, and he has been an invaluable leader both on and off the court for the Cavaliers. Baron has fully embraced the idea of mentoring Irving and actually sounds like it’s something he’s really looking forward to.

If the Cavaliers were to trade Baron, they would have to be the sellers in the deal and they would have to thrown in extra assets to offset another team taking on the extra year on Baron’s contract. For a rebuilding team, that kind of deal doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think Baron is much more valuable on the roster for this season, letting him work with Kyrie, and maybe even moving over to the shooting guard position to fill a need there as well being a stable veteran presence in the backcourt with Irving. Then next season when his contract is an expiring one, the Cavaliers can revisit the idea of trading him.

So the two most likely candidates to be traded, then are probably Ramon Sessions and JJ Hickson. The Cavaliers have been hesitant to seriously consider trading Varejao and now that the Cavaliers were unable to acquire a center in the draft, they would be stuck with just Ryan Hollins and Semih Erden were it not for Andy.

Trading Ramon Sessions probably makes the most sense. He would be such an ideal candidate to be the long term backup PG to Kyrie Irving. However, Ramon has made it clear he’s not really interested in playing that role and is looking for a trade. If it comes down to it and the Cavaliers need an extra roster spot and they don’t want to cut Samardo Samuels or Alonzo Gee, then trading Ramon is probably the best option.

For all the talk of the Tristan Thompson selection being the beginning of the end of JJ Hickson in Cleveland, that doesn’t really have to be the case. When people talk about the Cavaliers’ “logjam” at PF, they often mention Antawn Jamison and Samardo Samuels. That seems disingenuous at best to me. Antawn doesn’t figure in the long term plans of the Cavaliers whatsoever and the Cavaliers certainly feel that Tristan Thompson is much better than Samardo Samuels.

Tristan Thompson gives the Cavaliers the luxury of options. If Thompson pans out to be the player the Cavaliers think he will, then the Cavaliers will have the ability to perhaps bring him off the bench in a super 6th man type of role. Thompson could either sub in for Hickson, or else Hickson could slide over to center and play at the same time as Thompson. JJ’s and Tristan’s games are somewhat different and that could allow them to compliment one another on the floor together. Besides, JJ played a decent amount of center last season and although he couldn’t handle the likes of Dwight Howard, he did hold his own against teams with smaller lineups.

The point being, the Cavaliers don’t have to trade Hickson. If Thompson turns out better than JJ, then Thompson can start and JJ can come off the bench. Or else, if the Cavaliers can get another lottery pick in next year’s incredibly deep draft, then maybe it’s worth it. But the important thing is that Chris Grant doesn’t have to trade JJ and he can hold out for a deal that makes the most sense.

Many fans seemed to want the Cavaliers to solve all their problems in one draft. That wasn’t going to happen. What the Cavaliers did in this draft was add some much needed talent while continuing to stockpile future drafts and giving themselves plenty of roster flexibility and future options. The rebuilding process is very fluid, and now the Cavaliers have multiple directions they can go, depending on what is available in either free agency or else via trade.

The future is getting brighter in Cleveland, and now the key for the team and its fans is to continue practicing patience and persistence. This draft didn’t make the future any less bright, it just it made it less clear how this will all play out. They key is for the team to avoid any quick fixes and to continue down this path of adding talent, and keeping options open. Eventually, the right move will present itself to take the team to the next level, from rebuilding to fighting for contention. Until then, we’ll all just keep waiting and trying to enjoy the slow and steady climb.

  • mgbode

    Tyler Honeycutt > Luke Harangody (w/ Graham already likely casualty as is)

    there’s the roster spot we needed though I see the FO’s point that if they felt the UDFAs and other low-level FAs available were about equal to Honeycutt (or whoever else they may have drafted at that point), then they might as well bank a couple assets for future trades and/or use.

  • mgbode

    I mentioned this in the draft thread, but don’t think I expressed it clearly enough. let me try again.

    it’s not that I (or alot of fans) expected or even wanted the Cavs to address all of their needs in this draft. I understand that winning 25-30 games next year is likely and a good thing as it will put us near the top of what could be a very good draft.

    it’s that what I want is a roster where we don’t have to play most of the players out of position because I want to develop our younger players correctly. this is difficult when you many of the other players (or the young players themselves) are out of position.

    this is our current roster by likely position if we had to field a team today (I suspect it will be reshuffled quite a bit before the season starts, if it starts).

    PG: Irving, Sessions
    SG: Baron*, Gibson*, Harris
    SF: Eyenga*, Gee*, Graham!
    PF: Hickson, Thompson, Jamison, Harangody!
    C: AV, Hollins, Samuels*, Erden

    *Out of position
    !Should be out of NBA

    Now, imagine Baron gets hurt for a 2 week stretch at some point (likely) and the situation gets even worse.

  • Scott

    I’ll be shocked if Graham is kept beyond the 7/16 deadline for guaranteed contract. Just a gut feeling based on smart business.

  • Harv 21

    I guess I get the trade of the second rounder, but find it hard to believe they like those guys on the roster more.

    Re Baron, sorry, his long history shows he is often initially happy in while he’s getting the ball a lot. But not so much if his minutes go down or there is some other perceived problem; “stable veteran presence” is not a term associated with his long track record. Coach Scott seems no-nonsense, and if Old Baron appears and starts infecting Irving they’ll dump him real quick, even if they have to eat a bunch o’money. There is a difference between being a charismatic player with talent and being a mentor for the young guys.

  • Patron

    Harrangody is not that bad

  • Du

    What about the Trade Exception???

    Doesn’t this have to be used in less than two weeks?

    How are we going to use it??????

  • Boomhauertjs

    I hope they stink again next season so they can get back in the lottery and have a chance at Harrison Barnes.

  • Du

    Would Harrison Barnes been the #1 pick this season had he entered the draft?

  • Wally

    We have a few decent trade assets. Nothing will happen before the lockout (it would be shortsighted to potentially handcuff ourselves), but ideally we can convert Jamison, Sessions, and Hickson into either players or picks. If it’s still meaninful in the new CBA, we may have another few weeks of life in the TPE for the frantic period between end-of-lockout and resupmtion of play.

    The home run would be to somehow convert any of those assets into a 2012 lottery pick… and the bonus would be a tough wing veteran. I don’t think getting the extra lottery pick will be easy. Everyone knows 2012 is a great draft… and why would a non-playoff team want those assetts?

    A championship team has 4 strong starters and 4 strong rotation players. Hopefully, KI and TT are players that can develop into starters on a championship-caliber team.

    In the next draft we’ve got to get a third.

    Hopefully, we can develop 3 rotation players from our pool of Erden, Hollins, Eyenga, Harris, Gee… Maybe Andy stays along for the ride and is part of our 2014 contending team…

    Then, we’ve got to get at least another starter and another veteran through trades or draft. Likely trades, because we’re not going to win with all young players.

    PG: Irving
    SG: Rivers or acquired veteran (someone like W Matthews)
    SF: Barnes or acquired vet (someone like Iguodola)
    PF: Thomspon
    C: Erden?

    Bench: Andy, Eyenga… backup PG, backup C

    That group hopefully is in the playoffs… so we don’t get as good a pick, but for 2014 we’re a year older and tougher and trying to fill in the last pieces with veterans.

  • Scott

    “Doesn’t this have to be used in less than two weeks?”

    Two days. Season ends on 6/30.

    “Would Harrison Barnes been the #1 pick this season had he entered the draft?”

    Top three for sure. Probably would have been in consideration for No. 1 based on the Cavs picking there, but most mocks had him in top three. He’ll be in the top three again in 2012 barring anything crazy.

  • Wally

    Isn’t it possible that they’ve appealed for a TPE extension (since it was set to expire on 7/11, not on 6/30) and will get those 10 days back if it is still relevant with the new CBA?

  • Scott

    “Isn’t it possible that they’ve appealed for a TPE extension”

    Possible, yes. But the team has denied any sort of lobbying. Not that it’s not the case…

  • Matty Ice

    Next years class is loaded. Consider any one of these talents: Austin Rivers, Harrison Barnes, Terrance Jones, Anthony Davis, Perry Jones, Michael Gilchrist, and Jared Sullinger. Of the seven players my least favorite player is Sullinger. My favorite(s) are Rivers and Barnes because they can flat out score. The Kentucky and UNC rosters will more than likely see 6-8 players in the top 20. This doesn’t include Henson, Zeller, Teague, or Lamb. We are guaranteed a quality player to go along with this year. The future is bright in the 216!

  • Chris M

    The entire paragraph regarding the “logjam” is 100% spot on, Andrew.

    I couldn’t believe that I was hearing that the Cavaliers should stay away from their best player available simply because Samuels and Jamison was on the roster.

    I only hope that Thompson actually was their best player available. I really hope that they weren’t trying to get cute with a trade in mind, ending up without a seat when the music stopped.

  • Dee P


    Let’s say there is no NBA season….do they hold another lottery, or is it the same order as last year?

    In that case, we would pick #4 overall right? Because the #1 was really the Clippers spot?

    We also get the Heat’s first round this year?

    Or am I way off?

  • mgbode

    @Dee P – it would be apart of the new CBA agreement, but the best guess at this point would be that they would hold another lottery with each ‘selection’ having the same odds they had this past May.

    so, we would have the 2nd best chance at landing the top pick and at worst, the 5th pick (if both us and Minny’s pick* failed to garner a top3 selection)

    *the LA Clippers own the draft rights to Minnesota’s 2012 1st round pick.

  • A.C.

    @mgbode: That seems like the most likely scenario barring a season-long lockout.

    I hope the Cavs can trade for another Sessions-type player within the next year. I would like to get a young “veteran” who’s been in the league for a couple years and could fit in with Irving, TT, and the 2012 pick.

    With the Hornets’ 2nd round pick, The Cavs could move up from the early 2nd round into the late 1st round for another potential role player.

    I expect the long term roster to take a much more definite shape within the next 365 days. With Jamison’s expiring contract, Sessions and others as trade bait, a high draft pick, and at least one year of free agency, there will be numerous opportunities to turn this team into a contender.

  • bobby

    Wouldnt Honeycutt be cheaper then some of the rift raft we have on the roster? So how does it make sense to not add possible better talent at a lower price? AND at a position that we are not strong at. That moves still baffles me.

    Also, would TT be able to handle the likes of Dwight. Obviously he would have to bulk up some, but I think I saw he had like a 7’2″ wingspan and has crazy hops.

  • Hank

    Overall you are right. They must have looked at the board and determined that no one was better than Gee and Samuels, and possibly not as good as Harris either. They may have assessed no player had the upside as better than a role player and for their money, they would rather fill that role with a veteran like Anthony Parker.

    I do think the trade exception had something to do with this as well. One of the main values in a trade exception is that you can take back more players than you give away. When these exceptions are used, one team is often getting one player that they want and absorbing another player’s contract. I would think this accounted for at least one roster spot in the Cavs’ thinking.

    Related to both of the above is simply their assessment of where they are in terms of team-building. This was a year in which they had two first round picks and, in combination with the host of other young players on the roster, they may have felt that adding a third rookie was a bit much, and that the multiple future picks would be more valuable to them once those other young players were a bit further along in their development. Plus, Grant is all about acquiring assets. If he was enamored with who was left, he may have just wanted to collect something for a trade down the line.